Equestrianism: Swiss Researchers find 64% of horse feed contains prohibited or controlled substances!
By Laura Donnellan, School of Law, University of Limerick, Ireland A recent study carried out by Swiss-based researchers has found that, in samples taken from twenty-eight types of horse feed, eighteen tested positive for prohibited and controlled substances. The findings were published online in German, with the abstract in English (C. Herholz, N. Zink, H. Laska, M. Gumpendobler, Charles Trolliet, S. Probst, “Dopingrelevante Substanzen in Futtermitteln für Pferde”, (2017) 159 (4) pp.231-235, DOI: https://doi.org/10.17236/sat00112). The research was undertaken in response to three high profile failed drug tests in 2015 involving two Swiss jumping riders whose horses tested positive for banned and controlled substances (at p.232). The two riders, Guerdat and Bichsel, were subsequently cleared when it was found that the failed tests were attributed to poppy seed contamination of their food. At an event in France in May 2015, Guerdat’s mount, Nino des Buisonnets, tested positive for the banned substances of codeine and oripavine, and morphine, a controlled substance. At the same event, Guerdat had ridden Nasa, whose sample yielded an adverse analytical finding for codeine and morphine. Nasa’s sample also contained trace amounts of oripavine; however, the amount found was not of the requisite level for a doping infraction to have been committed. Bichsel’s mount, Charivari KG, at a different event in France in May 2015, tested positive for codeine, oripavine and morphine. In July 2015 Guerdat and Bichsel were informed by the FEI (the Fédération Equestre Internationale), the World Governing Body of Equestrianism, that their respective horses had tested positive for banned and controlled substances. The FEI informed the riders that the samples tested at the FEI-accredited LGC Newmarket Road Laboratory in Cambridgeshire, UK, had been found to contain prohibited substances under Article 2.1 of the Equine Anti-Doping Regulations (see Alessandra Bichsel/SUI, Decision of the FEI Tribunal, 25 Sept. 2015, https://inside.fei.org/system/files/2015-BS04%20-%20CHARIVARI%20KG%20-%20FEI%20Tribunal%20Decision%20-%2025%20September%202015.pdf and Steve Guerdat/SUI, Decision of the FEI Tribunal, 18 Sept. 2015, http://inside.fei.org/system/files/Case%202015-BS02%20-%20NASA%20-%202015-BS03%20-%20NINO%20DES%20BUISSONNETS%20-%20Final%20Tribunal%20Decision%20-%2018%20September%202015.pdf). A preliminary hearing via teleconference was held on the 23 July 2015 in relation to Guerdat and Bichsel’s case was heard the following day. (“FEI Tribunal lifts provisional suspensions on Guerdat and Bichsel”, 27 Jul. 2015, https://inside.fei.org/news/fei-tribunal-lifts-provisional-suspensions-guerdat-and-bichsel). Both riders had their suspensions lifted as the FEI Tribunal was satisfied that the positive tests were the result of contaminated horse feed. However, the two-month suspension placed on the horses was upheld on the grounds of animal welfare, which is an established policy of the FEI (see Laura Donnellan, “Doping and equestrian: Fédération Equestre Internationale and the lifting of eleven provisional suspensions” (2017) 8 (2) Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports 42-45). Both riders appealed the two-month suspension of their horses; however, the FEI Tribunal dismissed the appeals, with leave to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 21 days of the decision. The riders also had the results achieved at the events quashed, including the forfeiture of medals, points and prizes. Contaminated horse feed is a common occurrence: for example, the Queen of England’s horse Estimate tested positive for a banned substance after coming second at the Gold Cup at Ascot in 2014. Estimate was found to have morphine and oripavine present in his urine sample, in breach of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Rules of Racing. It was subsequently found that the feed had been contaminated by poppy seeds as the manufacturer of the food (Alfalfa Oil Plus), Dodson & Horrell Limited, was situated near a field of poppies. As with the FEI, the BHA overturned the qualification and the prize money of £80,625 prize-money £80,625 was forfeited to Missunited, the horse which originally finished third (see Laura Donnellan, “Sowing the poppy seed of doubt: Recent failed drug tests in British horseracing”, (2014) 5 (4) Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports 35-38). £80,625 prize-money The study carried out by Herholz et al examined domestically produced food as well as imported horse food, with sixteen samples taken from food manufactured outside Switzerland and twelve from Switzerland (“Dopingrelevante Substanzen in Futtermitteln für Pferde”, at p.232). The commercial feed was found to have traces of nine banned and controlled substances under the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR) of the FEI. All nine substances originate from plants, trees, leaves or seeds that are found in nature. The study found that five of the samples contained substances derived from the poppy plant (or “Mohn” in German):
- Morphine, pain medication (controlled);
- Thebaine, a stimulant (banned);
- Codeine, pain medication (controlled);
- Noscapine, cough suppressant (banned); and
- Papaverine, a muscle relaxant (banned)
- Theobromine, found in chocolate and tea, a diuretic and stimulant (controlled);
- Theophylline, found in tea and cocoa, used for the treatment of respiratory diseases (a specified substance under the FEI regulations which means that it recognises that a horse could ingest a substance through contaminated food. If a horse tests positive for a specified substance, the application of a provisional suspension is not automatic);
- Atropine, found in a number of plants including deadly nightshade, an hallucinogenic (controlled); and
- Colchicine, found in meadow saffron, used to treat gout, (banned).